Saturday, August 15, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

I think I get at least partial credit for doing today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Andrew Bell Lewis. It started so well, with 4-D, five letters, “Name on the first side-by-side fridge.” Hail, appliance manufacturer familiar to all crossword solvers! And then 5-D, three letters, “Napa nickname” and 1-A, eight letters, “Twisty underground passageway.” Followed by 6-D, four letters, “Tiramisu treat just for 2020.” Hail, treat familiar to all crossword solvers! Though the idea of a treat made just for this hellish year seems pretty cruel right now. And 7-D, seven letters, “Spheroid sweet.” Hail, more quietly, to a more obscure treat, one I enjoyed greatly in my sugar-rich childhood.

Later in the puzzle: 35-D, eight letters, “Single-serving desserts” and 59-A, nine letters, “Yuletide fruitcake.” This puzzle will be receiving a visit from the ADA.

The clue that had me stumped: 43-D, six letters, “Misspend one's time.” I was so baffled that I never saw the obvious answer for 43-A, three letters, “Fostered.” At least not until I began typing through the alphabet to figure out what fit. A little like answering a multiple-choice question by circling and erasing each answer until a bell rings and you get some sort of treat. Of which there are many in this puzzle.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, August 14, 2020

A classroom?

[Click for a larger view.]

Here is one example of one university’s idea of a socially distanced classroom. No desks. Lousy sightlines. Notice that the chairs go all the way to the far corner.

I am no fan of online classes, as many OCA readers already know. But right now they’re the only choice to protect the well-being of faculty and students. It’s online teaching and learning that should be the experiment this fall, not an in-person semester that will almost certainly end badly.

Related posts
Choose your own nightmare : College, anyone? : Reluctant professors : Something is rotten in Iowa : Students, stay home : What if

“Nothing stops the mail.”

[Click for a larger view.]

When I saw our postal carrier across the street yesterday, I called out, “Thank you, USPS.” He understood what I meant.

Elaine found this image, uncredited. I want to believe what it says. See also this mailbox.

Eugene Levy, honored

In these terrible times, I liked seeing this video with fellow actors paying tribute to Eugene Levy, recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Newport Beach Film Festival.

And so I went down a Eugene Levy rabbithole. More specifically, an SCTV rabbithole. For instance. For instance. For instance. And for instance. Okay, I’ll stop.

Nancy puzzle

Today’s Nancy, which takes shape as a jigsaw puzzle, is especially clever. Olivia Jaimes continues to breathe new life into the Nancy world.

Related reading
All OCA Nancy posts (Pinboard)

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The new Blogger interface again

Google is now posting what it calls “weekly updates” on the development of the new Blogger interface. Thus far there has been one update, for “the week of August 1.” The weeks appear to begin on Saturday at Google, and they are very long weeks.

Important for Blogger users: comments posted to the Blogger Help Community (sic) do not reach Google. The way to make a comment that someone at Google will read is to leave feedback, via the question mark that appears top right in the new Blogger interface. You type in the box that pops up — a box that’s already filled with text about leaving feedback. Delete that text and type away.

I just left some feedback about the prolix code that now surrounds every image in the new interface’s HTML window. It makes changing the height and width of images rather tedious. And I object to Google’s assumption that a user will want to add a caption to every image.

W.G. Sebald would not be happy with the new Blogger.

Related posts
The legacy Blogger interface : Is the new Blogger a New Coke? : The disappearing Blogger Preview

Mystery actor

[Click for a larger view.]

Recognize him? Think you do? Leave your best guess in the comments.


This one must be tough. Two hints: The mystery actor is best known for a television role. He’s making his second mystery appearance in these pages.


I guess this was a tough one. I’ve revealed the answer in the comments.

More mystery actors (Collect them all!)
? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ? : ?

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

She’s all that

Radical socialist, or tool of Wall Street? For Donald Trump*’s supporters, Kamala Harris is both.

In truth though, Senator Harris is an excellent choice for vice president. She is much better known than her Senate colleague Tammy Duckworth. Her tough, persistent questioning of William Barr and Brett Kavanaugh is well within recent memory, offering a powerful demonstration of what it means to speak truth to power — even if the speaking is a matter of asking questions. And she will (almost certainly) make a great nominee for president in 2024. I especially like the note of reconciliation in her presence on the ticket: she criticized Biden sharply at the first Democratic debate; Biden asked her to run with him; she said yes. As the song says, Let’s work together.

Related reading
“Harris’s Approval Rating Soars After Trump Reminds Nation How ‘Nasty’ She Was to Kavanaugh” (The New Yorker)

Chicken and cheese

A recipe for sardine pizza prompted Fresca to wonder in a comment about dishes inspired by books and movies.

I have no dish, but I now remember a childhood habit born of reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. From Jonathan Harker’s Journal:

The Count himself came forward and took off the cover of a dish, and I fell to at once on an excellent roast chicken. This, with some cheese and salad and a bottle of old Tokay, of which I had two glasses, was my supper.
As a boy, with Dracula as my inspiration, I would add a slice of American cheese to my plate whenever we had chicken for dinner. Cheese, right?

Cousin Brucie returns

Cousin Brucie returns to WABC-AM, as in “Seventy-seven, WABC!”

This man was on the radio when I was barely sentient. As they say these days, Wut ?

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

“In 1917 they say, right?”

Donald Trump*, yesterday:

“In 1917 they say, right? The great, the great pandemic certainly was a terrible thing, where they lost anywhere from fifty to a hundred million people. Probably ended the Second World War, all the soldiers were sick.”
What I’d like to hear a reporter say today:
“Mr. President, there have been questions raised about your grasp of history. The year associated with the influenza epidemic of the last century is not, despite what you have repeatedly said, 1917. It’s 1918. And there is no consensus among historians that the epidemic had anything to do with the end of the Second World War. Just to set the record straight on your command of history: could you tell us when the Second World War took place, who was involved, and what its consequences were for the twentieth century?”
Notice that my imaginary question is something of a trap, since it’s about the war Trump* spoke of. I can imagine a (non-)answer:
“Listen, everyone knows about the Second World War. It was bloody and vicious — almost as vicious as you people are, and nothing like it should ever be allowed to happen again. Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.”
He lumbers off the podium. And scene.

“We do language”

Toni Morrison:

We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
From “The Nobel Lecture in Literature.” 1993. In The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Related reading
All OCA Toni Morrison posts (Pinboard)


You can find Lora here. Follow the download link, chose Code, then download the ZIP file. The webpage must be outdated, as there are indeed six styles, not four.

[Found via]

The legacy Blogger interface

My hope that the new Blogger interface was proving to be a New Coke is evaporating. I found Orange Crate Art switched over this morning. On my phone in Mobile View (iOS, Safari), I saw no way to switch back. On my Mac, the option to revert to the (so-called) legacy interface is still available. But the promise that “the legacy interface will still be optionally available” is now gone.

Good grief: does one just toss away a legacy? No. A legacy should get preferential treatment and be admitted to a top school despite a mediocre or less than mediocre academic record. Google, please treat the legacy Blogger interface accordingly and give it every unmerited advantage available.


9:00 a.m.: The message just now on a Blogger page I created to try out the new interface: “In July, the new Blogger interface will become the default for all users. The legacy interface will still be optionally available.”

Monday, August 10, 2020

Twelve movies

[One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers.]

The Fat Man (dir. William Castle, 1951). A one-off film with J. Scott Smart reprising his radio serial role as Brad Runyon, bon vivant, gourmet, and detective. The character is said to have been inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, but Runyon seems to me more the Nero Wolfe type. He dines, dances (very well), and investigates the murder of a dentist, all the while looking like John Candy with a fake moustache. A wonderful B-movie with a zillion flashbacks, along with Rock Hudson, Emmett Kelly, and Julie London. ★★★★


Trapped (dir. Richard Fleischer, 1949). A semi-documentary story of Treasury agents and counterfeiters? I’m sold. Lloyd Bridges is the nominal star, but the movie’s more compelling presences are John Hoyt as a louche nightclub denizen and the ill-fated Barbara Paxton as a cigarette girl. Three great touches: chewing gum, an apartment where Latin music plays non-stop, and a chase through a Los Angeles streetcar depot. ★★★★


Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (dir. Stuart Heisler, 1947). Susan Hayward stars as Angelica Conway, a nightclub singer who career disappears when her songwriting husband Ken (Lee Bowman) becomes a star himself. Angelica’s descent into alcoholism is fueled by loneliness and suspicions about Ken and his catty assistant Martha (Marsha Hunt). Some great scenes: Angelica and Martha sparring at a party, Angelica and Robert Shayne in a bar; Angelica preparing a meal for her daughter. Bowman is the weak link, but Hayward gives a great (Lupino-esque, I’d say) performance in a forward-looking film that treats alcoholism as a disease. ★★★★


Once You Kiss a Stranger. . . (dir. Robert Sparr, 1969). A reimagining of Strangers on a Train, with Paul Burke (beloved in our household from the television series Naked City) as a pro golfer and Carol Lynley as the Bruno Anthony of the piece. Burke is fine as a man in over his head, but the movie is a tour de force for Lynley, by turns seductive, vicious, witty, but always insane. Also featuring a portable TV, an eight-track tape player, an enormous VCR, flocked wallpaper, and a car chase in the Valley (the Valley, always recognizable). With Whit Bissell as a brave psychiatrist and Philip Carey (who played the gay football player on All in the Family) as an egomaniacal golfer. ★★★★


Sex and the Single Girl (dir. Richard Quine, 1964). This movie and the previous one remind me how rarely I watch anything from this decade. (Elaine says our best year for movies is 1949 — or is it 1947?) Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis are delightful in this comedy of assumed and mistaken identities; Lauren Bacall and Henry Fonda, less so; Fran Jeffries and Mel Ferrer, much less so; the car chase, much, much less so. The sexual politics (get her drunk) are intolerable; the coyness — a man who has lost his, uhh, “confidence”; a woman who was “active” before marriage, that is, employed — insufferable. ★★


Rancho Notorious (dir. Fritz Lang, 1952). Another Criterion Channel noir western. “Legend of Chuck-A-Luck,” a song that runs through the movie, spells out the theme with an awkward redundancy: “hate, murder, and revenge.” No matter: after a brutal beginning, the story follows a ranch-hand (Arthur Kennedy) as he searches for the unknown bad man who raped and murdered his fiancée, ending up at last at Chuck-A-Luck, a ranch and haven for criminals presided over by a vaguely Circe-like Marlene Dietrich. The best line: “I wish you’d go away and come back ten years ago.” ★★★★


The Thin Man (dir. W.S. Van Dyke, 1934). The verbal and non-verbal communication between Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) is a delight, ditto the extended party scene, ditto the dinner scene, in which Nick improvises his way to figuring out who done it. The mystery and its cast of characters are not especially interesting, making this relatively short film feel much longer than its eighty minutes. Nora: “Want a drink?” Nick: “What do you think?” ★★★


The Two Mrs. Carrolls (dir. Peter Godfrey, 1947). Humphrey Bogart is a painter, of wives, not houses. The second Mrs. Carroll (Barbara Stanwyck) has two challenges to contend with: her husband and a wanna-be philanderer (Alexis Smith). Bogart is all unhinged emoting, but Stanwyck and Smith are well-matched as frenemies, the one anxious, the other cold and unflappable. A better leading man for this picture: James Mason. ★★★


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, aka The Hideaways (dir. Fielder Cook, 1973). The Afterschool Special to end all Afterschool Specials: siblings Claudia and Jamie (Sally Prager and Johnny Doran) run away to Manhattan to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I read E.L. Konigsburg’s novel for the first time as an adult and loved it. This adaptation, filmed on location, takes us inside Macy’s, the General Post Office Building, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art: O time capsule of Manahatta! Alas, the movie inexplicably veers away from the novel and disappoints when Mrs. Frankweiler (Ingrid Bergman) appears. ★★★


Two documentaries by Ron Mann

Imagine the Sound (1981). Music and conversation from four musicians identified with the avant-garde in jazz: Paul Bley, Bill Dixon, Archie Shepp, and Cecil Taylor. To see these musicians on film is a rare thing. But there’s little here to orient a newcomer, and nothing in the way of structure: the film meanders between brief or extended samples of performance and brief or extended samples of conversation. Worst moments: Taylor reading his poetry; best moments: Taylor at the piano. ★★★

Poetry in Motion (1982). I first saw this film of poets talking and reading from the work in 1984, on a date with Elaine. Jim Carroll did an introduction (I recall that he spoke about people who died, among them, no doubt, his friend Ted Berrigan); the projector kept failing; and the audience was, let’s say, irreverent. All these years later, the moments I remember as best — Helen Adam, Amiri Baraka (with David Murray and Steve McCall), Ted Berrigan, Tom Waits — hold up well. But so much of what’s here points toward “spoken word” and the substitution of gestures, gimmickry, and poet voice for the magic of language. ★★★


Of Time and the City (dir. Terence Davies, 2008). A deeply personal Liverpool story, made of archival footage and Davies’s narration, which touches on everything from movies to growing up gay to the Beatles to royalty (“The Betty Windsor Show”) to the poverty of crumbling nineteenth-century buildings and new tower blocks. With copious citation and allusion, ranging from Sir Walter Raleigh to Ulysses and Four Quartets. If W.S. Sebald had set out to make a film, it might look something like this one. It’s brilliant film, soon leaving the Criterion Channel. ★★★★

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Antigone in Ferguson

I watched a Theater of War event for Zoom last night: Antigone in Ferguson, an adaptation of Sophocles’s Antigone with music by Philip Woodmore. Cori Bush, just elected to Congress, introduced the event. The actors included Tracie Thoms (Antigone) and Oscar Isaac (Creon). De-Rance Blaylock and Duane Martin Foster, choir soloists, were teachers of Michael Brown, who was killed by a police offer six years ago yesterday in Ferguson, Missouri. Relatives of other men killed by police spoke after the performance: Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell; Marion Gray-Hopkins, mother of Gary Hopkins Jr.; and Uncle Bobby X, uncle of Oscar Grant. They spoke of the devastation of losing a loved one to police violence, of pain that never goes away, something Sophocles would understand.

I found many overtones of Lee Breuer’s The Gospel at Colonus, with a message of healing and redemption added to Sophoclean tragedy, most notably in a final song, “I’m Covered.” In Sophocles’s play, Antigone covers her brother Polynices’s body with dust, giving him a symbolic burial and thereby defying Creon’s order against burial rites for an enemy of the state. In the final song, there’s a different kind of covering, as the members of the choir proclaim that they are covered in the blood of Jesus. The most striking visual element in the performance: Willie Woodmore (the composer’s father), with enormous headphones and sunglasses, as the blind seer Tiresias.

I was one of forty (or more) people who raised a hand but had no chance to speak in the discussion that followed the performance. I wanted to say something about Creon. He is accusatory, paranoid, misogynist, intent upon demeaning and destroying anyone who challenges his authority, resistant to any plea that he should take a different course of action. He also identifies the state with himself: “So I should rule this country for someone other than myself?” he asks his son. Sound like anyone you know?

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard) : Ajax and EMTs

[I’ve quoted from Paul Woodruff’s translation, in Theban Plays (Hackett, 2003).]

Sunday, August 9, 2020

She and her

The caption for a photograph in The New York Times:

Ms. Hill’s closet in Washington. Like many people’s, it is filled with officewear she may not need for a while. At top right, a framed photo of she and her Congressional colleagues.
“A framed photo of she”: yeesh. A simple fix: “A framed photo of Hill,” &c.

The other problem: the unintended suggestion that Hill’s unneeded officewear is hanging in closets hither and yon.

“Art is fierce”

Toni Morrison:

I want to describe to you an event a young gifted writer reported:

During the years of dictatorship in Haiti, the government gangs, known as the Tonton Macoutes, roamed about the island killing dissenters, and ordinary and innocent people, at their leisure. Not content with the slaughter of one person for whatever reason, they instituted an especially cruel follow-through: no one was allowed to retrieve the dead lying in the streets or parks or in doorways. If a brother or parent or child, even a neighbor ventured out to do so, to bury the dead, honor him or her, they were themselves shot and killed. The bodies lay where they fell until a government garbage truck arrived to dispose of the corpses — emphasizing that relationship between a disposed-of human and trash. You can imagine the horror, the devastation, the trauma this practice had on the citizens. Then, one day, a local teacher gathered some people in a neighborhood to join him in a garage and put on a play. Each night they repeated the same performance. When they were observed by a gang member, the killer only saw some harmless people engaged in some harmless theatrics. But the play they were performing was Antigone, that ancient Greek tragedy about the moral and fatal consequences of dishonoring the unburied dead.

Make no mistake, this young writer said: art is fierce.
From “The Habit of Art.” 2010. In The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

All of which is a preface to this reminder that Theater of War presents a streaming performance of Antigone in Ferguson, tonight, 7:30 CDT. Zoom required. Register here.

A great sadness of my teaching life is that the teaching of “backgrounds” in my English department appears to have disappeared with my retirement. “Backgrounds” as I understood the word meant beginnings, of epic, lyric, tragedy, and comedy. Say, Homer, Virgil, and Ovid; Sappho and Catullus; Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Aristophanes.

Anyone who thinks that “the classics” no longer have anything to teach us isn’t paying attention.

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard): Modest proposals

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, made for a challenging half hour of solving. The puzzle looks daunting, with eleven-, thirteen-, and fifteen-letter answers across the top and bottom. I started with 16-A, four letters, “They’re easy to take,” and my incorrect answer was still good enough to get me started. When I put in my final answer, for 21-D, four letters, “Guy from Charlottesville,” I had no idea why the answer made sense and thought it couldn’t be right. Maybe it didn’t make sense. But it was correct. Done and baffled, that was me.

Oh, wait — I typed those sentences, and now the answer makes sense. My love/hate relationship with that kind of clue continues. These fingers, dear hearts, is always a-warrin’ and a-tuggin’, one agin t’other.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

7-D, four letters, “ER’s critical supply.” Clever, especially as the answer could be clued in a more straightforward way.

9-D, seven letters, “Window box favorite.” I don’t know why I was confident about the answer, but I was. Dowdy intuition, maybe.

12-A, thirteen letters, “Qualifier for a silly statement.” Fresh, lively, and surprisingly easy to see with a couple of crosses.

20-A, three letters, “Qtr.’s baker's dozen.” A good way to make a mundane answer Stumpery.

28-A, six letters, “Cultural center?” Well done.

30-A, four letters, “Fictional Autobiography subject (1847).” Yes, 1847!

32-A, four letters, “To-go pieces.” As above: a good way to, &c.

33-D, eight letters, “Important decade in analysis.” I don’t know whether to admire or lament the effort probably required to make this clue tricky.

41-D, six letters, “‘The ___ of the moth for the star’: Shelley.” Seeing Shelley in a puzzle always makes me think of my friend Rob Zseleczky, the consummate Shelley reader.

One quarrel: 5-D, five letters, “Numbers on angels.” This clue feels awfully forced in the interest of Stumping. On? No, about.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

“Defend Our Post Office”

[A video from People for the American Way. Music: Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, “Present Joys.”]

Friday, August 7, 2020

Whose toes?

[“Tourist Posing With 200-Year-Old Sculpture Breaks Her Toes.” The New York Times, August 7, 2020.]

Granted, the referent must be sculpture. And granted, the text that follows clears things up. But I’d rewrite this headline: “Tourist Accidentally Breaks Toes of 200-Year-Old Sculpture.” “Sculpture’s toes” sounds too awkward to me, or a little too much like (so-called) language-poetry.

Here’s the article. Step carefully.

A secret message, of course

Elaine and I chose a film out of the blue last night, Terence Davies’s Of Time and the City (2008), a meditation (for lack of a better word) on the Liverpool of the director’s early life, made of archival footage with commentary. In 2016 we watched and loved Davies’s The Long Day Closes (1992). Of Time and the City is the only other movie of his available from the Criterion Channel, and it vanishes on August 31. So — we watched.

How strange, late in the film, to hear Peggy Lee’s 1957 recording of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern’s “The Folks Who Live on the Hill.” That was one of my dad’s favorite songs, and we played Mel Tormé’s 1956 recording five years ago at his memorial. My dad died five years ago yesterday.

I couldn’t place Peggy Lee’s voice last night, even though I have the recording (on one of my dad’s CDs). I thought I was hearing Lee Wiley. As Elaine pointed out, I got it half right.

[Joking aside, Lee Wiley was indeed a major influence on Peggy Lee.]

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Eric Bentley’s desk

Look at the late Eric Bentley’s desk. Five photos down — you can’t miss it. See the inbox? Order!

A related post
Desk organizers

A joke in the traditional manner

What’s the worst thing about owning nine houses?

The punchline is in the comments.

More jokes in the traditional manner
The Autobahn : Did you hear about the cow coloratura? : Did you hear about the shape-shifting car? : Did you hear about the thieving produce clerk? : Elementary school : A Golden Retriever : How did Bela Lugosi know what to expect? : How did Samuel Clemens do all his long-distance traveling? : How do amoebas communicate? : How do ghosts hide their wrinkles? : How do worms get to the supermarket? : Of all the songs in the Great American Songbook, which is the favorite of pirates? : What did the doctor tell his forgetful patient to do? : What did the plumber do when embarrassed? : What happens when a senior citizen visits a podiatrist? : What is the favorite toy of philosophers’ children? : What’s the name of the Illinois town where dentists want to live? : What was the shepherd doing in the garden? : Where do amoebas golf? : Where does Paul Drake keep his hot tips? : Which member of the orchestra was best at handling money? : Why did the doctor spend his time helping injured squirrels? : Why did Oliver Hardy attempt a solo career in movies? : Why did the ophthalmologist and his wife split up? : Why does Marie Kondo never win at poker? : Why is the Fonz so cool? : Why sharpen your pencil to write a Dad joke? : Why was Santa Claus wandering the East Side of Manhattan?

[“In the traditional manner”: by or à la my dad. He gets credit for the Autobahn, the elementary school, the Golden Retriever, Bela Lugosi, Samuel Clemens, the doctor, the plumber, the senior citizen, Oliver Hardy, and the ophthalmologist. Elaine gets credit for the Illinois town. My dad was making such jokes long before anyone called them “dad jokes.” I continue in the traditional manner.]

Dad, i.m.

My dad, James Leddy, died five years ago today. He’d have been ninety-two this year.

He’s shown up in two dreams recently, sounding and looking like himself, only younger, first asking me to order a CD for him from Amazon and then walking down a brick-paved street to a hotel. That second dream cast me as both a father to my son and a son to my father. Which I am.

Here’s what I wrote after my dad died.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


A small persistent Mac problem, at least for me, over many years: right-click on a file and the Open With menu never populates. Instead it just says “Fetching. . . .” The only fix is to close out and try again.

Here’s a fix, which requires a command in the Terminal app to reset Launch Services. The fix from 2015, so proceed at your own risk. I can confirm that it still works in Mojave.

I ran into one small problem: after applying this fix, I found the MarsEdit extension in my Safari menu bar grayed out. I quit Safari, reopened, and all was well.

[I sometimes concentrate on the trivial to cope with the non-trivial.]

“The sentence of the year”

A sentence by Ed Yong, writing in The Atlantic about “How to Pandemic Defeated America”:

No one should be shocked that a liar who has made almost 20,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency would lie about whether the U.S. had the pandemic under control; that a racist who gave birth to birtherism would do little to stop a virus that was disproportionately killing Black people; that a xenophobe who presided over the creation of new immigrant-detention centers would order meatpacking plants with a substantial immigrant workforce to remain open; that a cruel man devoid of empathy would fail to calm fearful citizens; that a narcissist who cannot stand to be upstaged would refuse to tap the deep well of experts at his disposal; that a scion of nepotism would hand control of a shadow coronavirus task force to his unqualified son-in-law; that an armchair polymath would claim to have a “natural ability” at medicine and display it by wondering out loud about the curative potential of injecting disinfectant; that an egotist incapable of admitting failure would try to distract from his greatest one by blaming China, defunding the WHO, and promoting miracle drugs; or that a president who has been shielded by his party from any shred of accountability would say, when asked about the lack of testing, “I don’t take any responsibility at all.”
Roy Peter Clark: “If Yong has written the sentence of the year, and I believe he has, he can thank the semicolon.”

It is a great sentence. But reading it reminds me how rarely I now use the semicolon.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

On Louis Armstrong’s birthday

[Louis Armstrong. Photograph by Carl Mydans. 1938. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

It almost got past me this year. Louis Armstrong was born on August 4, 1901.

Related reading
All OCA Armstrong posts (Pinboard)


I recall Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) making a similar mistake, minus the possessive, in an episode of Married . . . with Children. I believe she said /ˈyō-zə-ˌmīt/. And yes, it was a laugh line.

Bonus: sequoias , also mispronounced.

Trump* Axios interview

Jonathan Swan’s interview with Donald Trump* for Axios on HBO is now available on YouTube.

Our well-being is in the hands of a psychopath. Read the manuals!

“Something, perhaps, like this”

Toni Morrison:

Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another. Something, perhaps, like this:

1. Construct an internal enemy, as both focus and diversion.

2. Isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse. Employ ad hominem attacks as legitimate charges against that enemy.

3. Enlist and create sources and distributors of information who are willing to reinforce the demonizing process because it is profitable, because it grants power, and because it works.

4. Palisade all art forms; monitor, discredit or expel those that challenge or destabilize processes of demonization and deification.

5. Subvert and malign all representatives of and sympathizers with this constructed enemy.

6. Solicit, from among the enemy, collaborators who agree with and can sanitize the dispossession process.

7. Pathologize the enemy in scholarly and popular mediums; recycle, for example, scientific racism and the myths of racial superiority in order to naturalize the pathology.

8. Criminalize the enemy. Then prepare, budget for, and rationalize the building of holding arenas for the enemy — especially its males and absolutely its children.

9. Reward mindlessness and apathy with monumentalized entertainments and with little pleasures, tiny seductions: a few minutes on television, a few lines in the press; a little pseudo-success; the illusion of power and influence; a little fun, a little style, a little consequence.

10. Maintain, at all costs, silence.
From “Racism and Fascism.” 1995. In The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Earlier Time

Aldinger was once a mayor. Now he is an escapee from a concentration camp, nearing his hometown.

Anna Seghers, The Seventh Cross. 1942. Trans. from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (New York: New York Review Books, 2018).

Tremendously suspenseful and tremendously moral, The Seventh Cross insists on a human spirit of resistance that cannot be broken. The 1944 film adaptation focuses almost exclusivelt on one of seven escapees. The novel, far more expansive than the film, follows the fortunes of dozens of characters, shifting from one to another through seven days in seven long chapters. Another NYRB rediscovery, one I recommend with enthusiasm.

From Anna Segher’s Transit
“Have been and will always be” : “A substitute for home and hearth”

Monday, August 3, 2020

Stuffin’, of bear, knocked out

[The Long Night (dir. Anatole Litvak, 1947). Click for a larger view.]

“Sure knocked the stuffin’ out of you, pal,” Joe Adams (Henry Fonda) says.

This post is for my friend Fresca, who’d know how to help this bear.

Going to Graduate School

There’s going to graduate school, as in “Um, I think maybe I’d like to be a professor someday.” And then there’s Going to Graduate School, which takes place on some other planet:

To keep options open, I applied to five graduate schools in five different fields. Having loved the work of art historian Meyer Schapiro, I applied to New York University, where he taught; second, I applied to the interdisciplinary program in social thought at the University of Chicago, which sounded fascinating; then to Columbia University’s program in English literature, and to Brandeis University, to study with philosopher Herbert Marcuse. What intrigued me most, though, was Harvard's doctoral program in the study of religion, which offered opportunities
to study Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, so I chose Harvard.

Elaine Pagels, Why Religion?: A Personal Story (New York: Ecco, 2018).
I’ve learned a lot from Pagels — from The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988), and The Origin of Satan (1995) — but I gave up on this book (a memoir of ideas, I’d call it) early in the third chapter. The writing is just not good enough: awkward sentences, glitches in chronology, missing details. For instance: Pagels’s choice to apply to graduate schools follows a post-college stint at the Martha Graham School. And yet Pagels mentions nothing about a background in dance before or during college. Also missing: the college major (and minors?) that made this range of grad-school choices possible.

But it seems to go without saying that Pagels (a Stanford grad) was accepted to all five programs.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Guthrie mailbox

[Art by Mike Shine. House paint on wood panel, 10″ × 12″. Original here. Click for a larger view.]

Elaine saw this image shared on Facebook. Its meaning is clear. But it was not especially easy to figure out the source.

“This Machine Kills Fascists” was the message on Woody Guthrie’s guitar, first painted on, later lettered on a gummed label and pasted on.

Peach muffins

Elaine has shared her recipe for peach muffins. If you’re two people and you buy an enormous box of peaches from an orchard, there must be muffins.

Rutgers and grammar

I’ve been reading about this story for a week and saying to myself, No, that is not what Rutgers said. Not at all. Now Snopes has it covered: “Did Rutgers University Declare Grammar ‘Racist’?”

Long story short: writing instruction at Rutgers will place greater emphasis on grammar and other sentence-level matters so as not to disadvantage students from multilingual or “non-standard” academic backgrounds. I’m reminded of what Bryan Garner says: “Standard English: without it, you won't be taken seriously.” To let students believe otherwise is to put them at a disadvantage.


August 4: Reuters too confirms that the claim that Rutgers called grammar racist is false.

Related posts
Grammar in the writing center : W(h)ither grammar

Saturday, August 1, 2020


On Jeopardy a few minutes ago, someone answered a question about “Donald Trump’s second wife” with “Who is Ivanka Trump?”

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper is by “Anna Stiga,” or Stan Again, the puzzle’s editor Stanley Newman. Pretty, pretty, pretty easy, with the only difficulties coming from the grid itself, which breaks the puzzle into five nearly discrete sections. Must . . . navigate . . . narrow . . . straits. Phew, made it.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-D, eight letters, “KO, in the DJIA.” Something to do with some rarefied form of boxing? No. I got the answer but had no idea what this clue meant until I looked it up.

17-A, eight letters, “Calliope and kin.” Not circus folk.

19-A, three letters, “Transit terminal.” Not a HUB.

28-D, ten letters, “Element #117, named for a state.” Ahh, good old lifelong learning.

35-D, eight letters, “Personal digital device.” That’s amusing.

38-A, three letters, “She’s from Nevada.” Such clues are less surprising when you expect them, but I still like getting the point.

53-A, eight letters, “Newspaper in La Paz and Nueva York.” Takes me back to newsstands.

Two clue-and-answer pairs I’d quarrel with:

31-A, seven letters, “Easy to start using, as paper rolls.” Huh? My alternative clue: “Live and lost.”

37-A, seven letters, “Home of Heartland of America Pk.” Just ugly.

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Students, stay home

Faculty members at Appalachian State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have written open letters to their schools’ students asking them to stay home this fall.

An excerpt from the ASU letter:

We all look forward to a full return to campus, but the current environment does not allow this. We are aware of an economic impact of remaining online. We are aware of the much greater impact an outbreak in Boone [North Carolina] would have. Some risks are worth taking. A full return of the student body in August is not one of those.
Related posts
Choose your own nightmare : College, anyone? : Reluctant professors : Something is rotten in Iowa : What if

[Via The Chronicle of Higher Education.]

A baseline preference

Virginia Heffernan, writing in the Los Angeles Times about Herman Cain, Louie Gohmert, and opposition to face masks:

At this stage in the coronavirus lottery, the rejection of masks expresses nothing so much as a death wish, which makes it not just irrational but unusual. Most of us want to stay alive as long as possible. Common to all animals, this baseline preference for life over death is nonpartisan, non-ideological, noncontroversial.

Here’s wishing Gohmert a speedy recovery — of both his health and his senses.

Recently updated

Sinatra’s last performance It’s back on YouTube, this time with video. Get it before it’s gone again.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Is the new Blogger a New Coke?

From the Official Blogger Blog, May 20, 2020:

We’ll be moving everyone to the new interface over the coming months. Starting in late June, many Blogger creators will see the new interface become their default, though they can revert to the old interface by clicking “Revert to legacy Blogger” in the left-hand navigation. By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface.
But the message I just saw when I just signed into Blogger:
In July, the new Blogger interface will become the default for all users. The legacy interface will still be optionally available.
My brief experiences with the new Blogger interface have been disappointing, in many ways, all of which I’ve let Google know about via Feedback. (Here’s just one problem.) Irony: in the new interface, the Feedback button itself, like so many other things, is difficult to find. If Google has quietly decided to let the old interface live, it’s a wise if embarrassing choice. Pass the old Coke, please.

Another discovery: If you switch to the new interface and decide to switch back, you now see this message:
You've reverted to the legacy Blogger interface. We’ll be moving all bloggers to the new interface over the coming months.
Until recently, the message added that the old Blogger would at some point become unavailable.

And I must point out the lack of care in Google’s copyediting: one dumb apostrophe, one smart apostrophe. Sheesh.

[Remember “New Coke?” I don’t drink soda, but if I did, I’d drink old Coke.]

Domestic comedy

[The television was on.]

“We have some new polling to show you, and it shows some trouble for the Trump campaign.”

Followed by spontaneous applause from our four hands.

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

Ajax and EMTs

I watched a Theater of War event for Zoom last night: dramatic readings from Sophocles’s Ajax followed by a discussion among EMS providers. The actors: Chad Coleman (Ajax), Amy Ryan (Tecmessa), and Anthony Almojera (Chorus). You may know Coleman and Ryan as Cutty and Beadie from The Wire. Almojera is an FDNY parademic. All three read with great power and pathos.

Things I learned: EMTs are woefully underpaid. Their careers tend to be short, with people moving out after a few years. Unlike, say, firefighters, EMTs get little recognition. One participant told a story of a team bringing someone back from death (literally) at a fire, then finding that only the firefighters on the scene were honored at a ceremony. Why? The EMTs couldn’t be spared — too many calls.

It’s all at least loosely related to Sophocles’s Ajax, whom I’ve begun to think of as a quintessential essential worker. He does what needs to be done, giving his all. His community’s survival depends on his effort. His sense of honor runs deep. When he is denied the reward he believes is due him (the dead Achilles’s armor), his sense of betrayal runs just as deep. After an episode of berserking, he reassures his spear-bride Tecmessa and his son that all will be well and walks away to fall on his sword.

Something I thought about after this event: the question “How are you?” One participant said the question prompted a colleague to think about what it really felt like to work amidst a pandemic. Another participant suggested that the question can be dangerous for someone unprepared to offer an honest response. Me, I think it’s probably better to ask. After all, someone can always choose to answer in a perfunctory way. See also “Are you okay?” — a question I found helpful through many years of teaching.

These are times in which we should all be asking one another how we’re doing, and if we’re okay.

A trip to Binny’s

I went to the nearby Binny’s to shop, where I kept forgetting to put on my mask. Where was it anyway? I picked up a few bottles of wine, and filled my cart with beer bottles so that I could compare labels. I met Ben and showed him a small front room, paneled in dark wood, with cheap American beer and brandy on the shelves. I explained that it must be the Upper Midwest room. An employee walked up to ask if she could ask a question. She was trying to figure out how to let people know that the store was open on Sundays. What about putting a coffin in the window? I told her I didn’t think that would work.

Outside I met my dad, and we walked down a brick-paved street. He was barefoot, walking like a much younger man, and I cautioned him to watch for the rat traps by the curb as we walked back to my hotel.

Related reading
All OCA dream posts (Pinboard)

[Binny’s: a midwestern chain of alcohol superstores. The traps were the large black boxes you might see along the walls of a big-box store.]

Thursday, July 30, 2020

An EXchange name sighting

[Loophole (dir. Harold D. Schuster, 1954). Click for a larger view.]

Los Angeles lives: this building, still standing at 5639 Sunset Boulevard, now houses JEM Motor Corp., seller of high-end used vehicles. The number is no longer GLadstone 3111.

The exchange name on the cab that’s about to roll out from Tanner: SYcamore.

More EXchange names on screen
Act of Violence : The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse : Armored Car Robbery : Baby Face : Blast of Silence : The Blue Dahlia : Blue Gardenia : Boardwalk Empire : Born Yesterday : The Brasher Doubloon : The Brothers Rico : Chinatown : Danger Zone : The Dark Corner : Dark Passage : Deception : Deux hommes dans Manhattan : Dick Tracy’s Deception : Down Three Dark Streets : Dream House : East Side, West Side : Fallen Angel : Framed : The Little Giant : The Man Who Cheated Himself : Modern Marvels : Murder by Contract : Murder, My Sweet : My Week with Marilyn : Naked City (1) : Naked City (2) : Naked City (3) : Naked City (4) : Naked City (5) : Naked City (6) : Naked City (7) : Nightfall : Nightmare Alley : Out of the Past : Perry Mason : Pitfall : The Public Enemy : Railroaded! : Red Light : Side Street : The Slender Thread : Stage Fright : Sweet Smell of Success : Tension : This Gun for Hire : Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

“W.G. Sebald: A Profile”

Out from behind a paywall at The Paris Review, James Atlas’s “W.G. Sebald: A Profile.” An excerpt:

When I asked his London agent, Victoria Edwards, what he was like, she said she’d never met him. Like his peripatetic narrator, he liked to go for walks in all weather; twice when I called, his wife told me he was “out with the dogs.” The notion of a literary profile bewildered him. “I am glad you liked The Emigrants and quite astounded that you propose to come all the way to talk to me,” he’d written in reply to my request for an interview.
Yesterday afternoon I pulled from a shelf three books by Sebald I haven’t yet read. Finding this profile available online feels like a sign that it’s time to read them.

Related reading
All OCA Sebald posts (Pinboard)

[The text of the profile appears to have been scanned, with conspicuous errors. But it’s free. The books I have read: Vertigo, The Emigrants, The Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz, and a collection of interviews.]

Last words from John Lewis

He wrote them to the published in The New York Times on the day of his funeral. An excerpt:

Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.

One more, coming on a day when Donald Trump* has wondered aloud about postponing the November election:
Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Orange car art

Daughter Number Three lightens the day with three photographs of a little orange Subaru. Want.

Related reading
All OCA orange posts (Pinboard)

Word of the day: buff

How rare it is these days to hear someone described as a buff. It’s a decidedly dowdy word. Buffs used to be everywhere: jazz buffs, camera buffs, stereo buffs. They were always male, and they wore madras shorts in summer, particularly at cookouts, where they spoke of Brubeck and Kenton, lenses and pre-amps. In cold weather, they switched to chinos and took the conversation indoors, sitting on mid-century chairs and sofas, with trays of cold cuts and bowls of pretzels at the ready.

That paragraph came from my imagination. The next two do not.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word and explains its surprising origin:

“An enthusiast about going to fires” (Webster 1934); so called from the buff uniforms worn by volunteer firemen in New York City in former times. Hence gen., an enthusiast or specialist. Chiefly North American colloquial.
The dictionary’s first citation is from the New York newspaper The Sun (1903): “The Buffs are men and boys whose love of fires, fire-fighting and firemen is a predominant characteristic.”

It seems that the color name buff — “of the colour of buff leather; a light brownish yellow” — comes from the French buffle, buffalo. The dictionary hedges: that’s “apparently” the origin.

And once again from my imagination:

If we ever go back to having cookouts and sitting on mid-century furniture, the surprising origin of buff will be something to word buffs for talk about. Or does they already know about it?

Chicago articles

A quiz from The Chicago Manual of Style: Fun with Articles.

A visit with Billy Gray

“Sure. Come on down, and we’ll chat our asses off”: Billy Gray invites the journalist Steve Unger to come over for a visit: “My Visit with Bud from Father Knows Best ” (Next Avenue).

A comment I must add: the imaginary world FKB did indeed address serious real-world troubles. This post catalogues a few.

Other FKB posts
“Betty’s Graduation” : A conversation from another world : FKB pencil sharpener : Flowers knows best : “Languages, economics, philosophy, the humanities” : “Margaret Disowns Her Family” : Scene-stealing card-file : “A Woman in the House” : “Your dinner jacket just arrived”

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Ajax for frontline medical providers

A Theater of War event for frontline medical providers:

This event will use Sophocles’s Ajax to create a vocabulary for discussing themes such as personal risk, death/dying, grief, deviation from standards of care, abandonment, helplessness, and complex ethical decisions. The project aims to foster connection, community, moral resilience, and positive action.
It’s a Zoom event, open to the public, scheduled for this Thursday, July 30, 7:00 p.m.–9:30 p.m. EDT. Register here.

For some readers or viewers, Ajax may be a play to approach with caution. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard)

“Why should I?”

An exchange this morning between Representative Eric Swalwell (D, California-15) and Attorney General William Barr, about a point that came up during Barr’s confirmation hearing:

“You were asked, could a president issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him? And you responded, ‘No, that would be a crime.’ Is that right?”

“Yes, I said that.”

“You said ‘a crime.’ You didn’t say it’d be wrong; you didn’t say it’d be unlawful. You said it’d be a crime. And when you said that, that a president swapping a pardon to silence a witness would be a crime, you were promising the American people that if you saw that, you would do something about it. Is that right?”

“That’s right.”

“Now, Mr. Barr, are you investigating Donald Trump for commuting the sentence of his longtime friend and political advisor Roger Stone?”


“Why not?”

“Why should I?”
William Barr makes it easy to know what to think of him. See also “Bill Barr Tests Negative for Integrity.”

[My transcription.]

Twelve movies

[One to four stars. Four sentences each. No spoilers.]

Station West (dir. Sidney Lanfield, 1948). One of the Criterion Channel’s Western noir offerings, with cowboy hats and horses instead of fedoras and getaway cars. Dick Powell comes into town as an undercover investigator and trouble finds him, in the form of Jane Greer and assorted locals. Greer, as Powell himself observes, changes in appearance from scene to scene. But watch for the moment when she reprises Kathie from Out of the Past, taking erotic pleasure in the spectacle of two men fighting. Also in town: Raymond Burr, Burl Ives, and Agnes Moorehead. ★★★★


The Seventh Cross (dir. Fred Zinneman, 1944). From the novel by Anna Seghers, which our household is now reading. It’s 1936, and seven men have escaped from a German concentration camp. The film follows one of them, George Heisler, an anti-Nazi machinist (Spencer Tracy), as he lives by his wits, weary and wary, trying to reach old friends who may no longer be trustworthy. Hume Cronyn, Signe Hasso, Agnes Moorehead, George Macready, and Jessica Tandy are among the (literally) supporting players in this suspenseful story of selflessness and solidarity under Nazism. ★★★★


The Bribe (dir. Robert Z. Leonard, 1949). All atmosphere, with a G-man (Robert Taylor) traveling to a Central American island to investigate the theft and resale of airplace engines. Once we’re in Exotica, we can stop thinking about engines and focus on Ava Gardner (café singer), John Hodiak (her husband), Charles Laughton (forever meandering, or lurking) and Vincent Price (who must be up to no good). Watch for the special effect that begins the film, when Gardner appears in a window. The final crowd scene brings the fireworks. ★★★★


Shadows in the Night (dir. Eugene J. Forde, 1944). Warner Baxter as Dr. Robert Ordway, the Crime Doctor, a role he played in a series of low-budget films. A woman troubled by nightmares (Nina Foch) rings the Crime Doctor’s bell at three in the morning. To solve the mystery behind her dreams, the doctor travels to a seaside estate, where various people enter and exit various rooms. The only reason to see this movie: Nina Foch. ★★


Loophole (dir. Harold D. Schuster, 1954). A bank teller (Barry Sullivan) discovers a $49,900 shortage in his till, and he and his wife (Dorothy Malone, not yet blonde) find their lives spinning out of control. With Don Beddoe as an unassuming thief and Charles McGraw as a maniacally vengeful investigator for the bank’s bonding company. A surprisingly moving moment: Dorothy Malone weeps amid the chaos of a tiny apartment. Plenty of desk sets, file cabinets, telephones, typewriters: whatever the plot, I could watch stuff like this all day. ★★★


A little Anatole Litvak

The Long Night (1947). Henry Fonda leads the cast as Joe Adams, a war vet and blue-collar worker whose story is told as he holes up in his apartment, with police surrounding the building. The bigger performances here are from Barbara Bel Geddes in her film debut as Joe’s girlfriend Jo Ann and Vincent Price as Maximilian, nightclub magician and malignant narcissist. Did Maximilian and Jo Ann ever — that’s the question that torments Joe. Strong cinematography by Sol Polito — darkness, glare, staircases, crowds — adds much to an already compelling story. ★★★★

The Journey (1959). November 1956: with Russian forces occupying Hungary, a freedom fighter attempts to leave the country with thirteen international travelers. To protect him is of course to endanger everyone else, leading to moments of moral dilemma and, later, to open debate. Yul Brenner (a Russian military commander), Deborah Kerr (an English aristocrat), and Jason Robards Jr. (the freedom fighter) are the principals, with the ghosts of the King and Anna hovering over Russian-British relations. In the supporting cast: Anne Jackson, E.G. Marshall, and Robert Morley — and watch for a nearly silent Anouk Aimée. ★★★★


House on Haunted Hill (dir. William Castle, 1959). Vincent Price plays a millionaire who invites five people to spend a night in a haunted house — $10,000 for each person who lasts the night. Considered as an ordinary movie, House on Haunted Hill fails spectacularly. But considered as a bad movie, it succeeds spectacularly, with every cliché of horror — a creaking door, a trick wall, a head in a box, a walking skeleton — present and accounted for, inviting laughter rather than shock. The best line: “I’ve had enough of your spook talk!” ★★★★


The Booksellers (dir. D.W. Young, 2019). Books, rare ones, and the people who sell and buy them. This documentary is a visual feast, spine after spine, cover after cover, shelf after shelf. But the longer it went on, the more I could feel books turning into dollars, and shelves and boxes turning into joyless claustrophobia (just wait for the drawer of purses). The best moments belong to Fran Lebowitz, talking about bookstores and reading and not having the money to buy anything rare. ★★★★


High Heels (dir. Pedro Almodóvar, 1991). A film-star mother, a daughter, a drag artist who performs as the mother, a husband, a lover, another husband, a police investigator: those are some of the identities that shift about in this variation on the “woman’s picture,” a story of love, murder, and doubling. (Like shoes, people come in pairs.) Marisa Paredes and Victoria Abril (two Almodóvar regulars) star. My favorite scene: a spontaneous confession on live television, with a sign-language interpreter following along. ★★★★


Hollywood Shuffle (dir. Robert Townsend, 1987). Robert Townsend stars as Bobby Taylor, a young Black actor trying to make it in the movies. In doing so, he comes up against white producers who want him to speak such lines as “I ain’t be got no weapon!” Filled with satire of everything from Amadeus to Blaxpolitation to Eddie Murphy to Indiana Jones to Rambo to Siskel and Ebert (“I disagree, homeboy”). I loved this movie, whose broad, sharp comedy reminded me of In Living Color, whose Keenen Ivory Wayans co-wrote the screenplay and appears in two roles. ★★★★


Mark of the Vampire (dir. Tod Browning, 1935). “What’s that, Tod? Lionel Barrymore — for a vampire movie, with Lugosi and Donald Meek? Sure, I’m in. And say, let’s find a spot for the Borland kid.” ★★★★

[From Mark of the Vampire. Carol Borland as Luna. Click for a scarier view.]

Related reading
All OCA film posts (Pinboard)

Backblaze, anyone?

Backblaze is an online backup service. Wirecutter continues to recommend it as “the best cloud backup service for most people.”

If you’d like a free month, follow this link. If you sign up — $6 a month or $60 a year or $110 for two years — I get a free month.

But I hope you’re already backing up online.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Bushmiller, drawn drawing

[“Self-Portrait.” Zippy, July 27, 2020.]

Today’s Zippy is an exercise in Bushmillerian Ovidian metamorphosis. Click through to see.

As you may know, Bill Griffith has been at work on a biography of Ernie Bushmiller. Here’s a preview.

Venn reading
All OCA Nancy : Nancy and Zippy : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

The return of the Jack Elrod ball

Today’s Mark Trail marks the return of the Jack Elrod ball. James Allen and the James Allen ball are gone, and the strip is now, perhaps temporarily, in reruns by Allen’s late predecessor (d. 2016). Allen’s explanation: “I’m tired and they wanted a new direction.” But a more plausible explanation might be found by following that link and reading the comments, one of which notes that Allen recently tweeted a crude, hateful remark about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from the account @themarktrail, which now shows no tweets. Allen also appears to have modeled a recent Trail character who came to a gruesome end on a Twitter critic of the strip. Thin-skinned much?

Related reading
All OCA Mark Trail posts (Pinboard)

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Blogger Preview and Safari

I’ve tried the new Blogger interface and switched back. To my eyes, it’s terrible. But I just switched again to see if I would run up against a problem a fellow blogger and Safari user encountered: no Preview view for a draft post. I did. And I noticed that every time I chose Preview, the words "Pop-up window blocked" flashed by in the address bar. So it appears that Safari identifies the Preview view — which should open in a new tab — as a pop-up window. Apple’s fault? Google’s fault? Who knows. But everything works properly in Chrome.

Here’s how to get Preview view back in Safari:

Click on Safari in the menu bar.

Click on Settings for This Website.

For Pop-up Windows, click on whatever setting is displayed and change it to Allow. There won’t appear to be other options, but click and they’ll appear.
Google plans to switch all Blogger accounts to the new interface, so this fix is worth knowing about. For me it'll be one more reason to write posts in MarsEdit. One downside: because of Google rules, MarsEdit can’t upload images to Blogger. And the app’s developer Daniel Jalkut is honest enough to no longer list Blogger as compatible with MarsEdit. But the app does still work with Blogger for writing.

My only connection to MarsEdit is that of a happy user.


[Zippy, July 26, 2020.]

Dingburgers dig Nancy.

Venn reading
All OCA Nancy : Nancy and Zippy : Zippy posts (Pinboard)

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Hadelich and Weiss, streaming

Before it gets any later in the day: Augustin Hadelich, violin, and Orion Weiss, piano, may be heard tonight, 8:00 EDT, in a recital from Tanglewood. Music by John Adams, Johannes Brahms, and Claude Debussy. Admission: $12. The performance will remain available through August 1.

Related reading
Three more posts about Augustin Hadelich

Today’s Saturday Stumper

Today’s Newsday Saturday Stumper, by Greg Johnson, is a solid Stumper. Personally, I found it challenging — I needed half an hour to finish. I remember a student who prefaced every comment in class with “Personally,” which I’ve capitalized here because it began sentences. Not the sentence I just wrote but sentences spoken in class.

And personally, I found the southwest corner particularly difficult.

Some clue-and-answer pairs I especially liked:

1-A, five letters, “Play with puddles” and 1-D, six letters, “Gaudy entrance.” This pairing made for a delightful start.

4-D, six letters, “Prepares to take tea.” I am always prepared to take tea.

6-A, nine letters, “Posts behind another user's back.” I can’t recall seeing the answer in a crossword before.

11-D, four letters, “Homeric work.” I was surprised to see this answer and not the more familiar one.

23-A, eleven letters, “With 46 Across, modern ‘Pay attention!’” and 46-A, eleven letters, “See 23 Across.” I imagine that the constructor was delighted to think of this sentence and find that it splits into two eleven-letter halves.

34-D, eight letters, “Requirement for clear reception.” The first four letters are easy; the last four might lead a solver astray.

37-A, six letters, “Bento box lacquerware.” I learned something.

38-A, four letters, “They make waiters angry.” Indeed.

41-A, four letters, “Door stop, essentially.” Personally, I think it’s a good idea to have a nice supply of these stashed in a kitchen drawer. You never know when you might need one.

53-A, nine letters, “Troubadour, for instance.” I was thinking SONGWRIT — ER, no, that doesn’t work.

55-D, three letters, “Impressive back yards.” Corny, but in a good way.

One clue-and-answer pair that feels forced: 43-D, six letters, “Use a space vehicle.” A vehicle? Really?

No spoilers: the answers are in the comments.

Friday, July 24, 2020

“If you have to write”

[Stranger on the Third Floor (dir. Boris Ingster, 1940). Click for an angrier view.]

Albert Meng (Charles Halton) is angry. The landlady (Jane Keckley) is angry too. It’s a rooming house, not an office building, and Mr. Meng is a good tenant. Why, he’s been living here for nearly fourteen years, and he’s always paid his rent promptly. And now Mr. Ward (John McGuire) is typing at all hours, making it impossible for Mr. Meng to sleep. “Stop using that thing!” says the landlady. And Mr. Meng:

[“If you have to write, write with a pencil!” That’s what he says, honest. Click for a louder view.]

In my student days, I too typed on a manual typewriter at all hours. Didn’t everyone?

Related reading
All OCA pencil posts (Pinboard)

[Charles Halton is probably best known as the bank examiner in It’s a Wonderful Life.]

Domestic comedy

“I’m so tired of seeing ODE in crosswords. And ODIST. No one calls John Keats an ODIST. He’s from Andy of Mayberry.”

“Isn’t he the one who’s in the jail?”

Related reading
All OCA domestic comedy posts (Pinboard)

[Wikipedia explains: Andy of Mayberry was the title for episodes of The Andy Griffith Show rerun on daytime television.]

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Antigone in Ferguson

Theater of War presents a streaming performance of Antigone in Ferguson:

Antigone in Ferguson fuses a dramatic reading by leading actors of Sophocles’s Antigone with live choral music performed by a choir of activists, police officers, youth, and concerned citizens from Ferguson and New York City. The performance is the catalyst for panel and audience-driven discussions about racialized violence, structural oppression, misogyny, gender violence, and social justice.
Free to watch, August 9, 7:30 CDT. Zoom required. Register here.

Related reading
All OCA Sophocles posts (Pinboard)

“I am someone’s daughter too”

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responds to Representative Ted Yoho (R-FL), who called her, on the steps of the United States Capitol, a “fucking bitch.”

I think of the many times I heard students leaving a college classroom speak of one instructor or another as a “fucking bitch.” “Don’t use language like that about your instructor,” I would say, whenever I had the chance. I wish now I had taken the chance to say more.

“A substitute for home and hearth”

Anna Seghers, Transit. 1951. Trans. from the German by Margot Bettauer Dembo (New York: New York Review Books, 2013).

Everything’s a substitute. But hospitality lives on. And it’s not only coffee, sugar, and alcohol that have their substitutes: substitution governs human relations in the novel.

A related post
“Have been and will always be”

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Five words

Jesus. Mary. And. Joseph. I’m from Brooklyn — it’s just four words.

Annie Ross (1930–2020)

The singer and actor Annie Ross has died at the age of eighty-nine. The New York Times has an obituary.

Annie Ross’s voice is one I’ve known from childhood. The Lambert, Hendricks & Ross album Sing a Song of Basie (1957) was a household favorite in my early years. Later I bought my own copy.

It turns out that I’ve known Annie Ross’s voice from childhood in a second way, minus Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks. The Times obituary notes that the girl who sings “Loch Lomond” in a 1938 Our Gang short was Annie Ross.

Here’s Annie Ross performing her best known tune, “Twisted,” with her lyrics fitted to Wardell Gray’s tenor saxophone solo from an instrumental recording of the same name.

[Annie Ross, with Count Basie and his rhythm section: Freddie Green, guitar; Eddie Jones, bass; Sonny Payne, drums. Jon Hendricks is snapping by the fireplace. Tony Bennett is digging the sounds. From Playboy’s Penthouse (October 1959).]


[A two-page spread of doodles from Russell M. Arundel’s Everybody’s Pixillated (1937). Life, May 24, 1937. Click either image for a larger view.]

All I can say is that I’ve never felt closer to Herbert Hoover. His doodles could be a margin in one of my notebooks from college.

A related post
Words in movies: pixilated, doodle, doodler, doodling

Words in movies

Four words, in one movie, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (dir. Frank Capra, 1936).

The first word is pixilated, which two elderly residents of Mandrake Falls, Vermont, agree describes Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) — and everyone else in Mandrake Falls, Vermont, except themselves. The Oxford English Dictionary definition:

Chiefly U.S. regional. Slightly crazed; bewildered, confused; fey, whimsical; (also) intoxicated.
In the movie a psychiatrist explains:
“The word pixilated is an early American expression derived from the word pixies, meaning ‘elves.’ They would say ‘The pixies have got him,’ as we nowadays would say that a man is balmy.”
Or they might have said that the man was pixie-led. That’s a much older word in the OED. And now I’m thinking of Yeats’s “The Stolen Child.” Come away with us, you stupid human!

Five years after the movie, the folklorist Fannie Hardy Eckstorm wrote about pixilated:
The word pixilated had a nationwide vogue in 1936, following its use in the sound film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Most people probably thought of it as the clever coinage of a Hollywood scenarist; but the student of the local lore of New England knows that is is a well established old Marblehead [Massachusetts] word.

“‘Pixilated,’ a Marblehead Word,” American Speech) 16, no. 1 (1941).
The earliest citation Eckstorm offers (now the earliest in the OED) is from an 1848 campaign song for Zachary Taylor:
You’ll never find on any trip
That he’ll be pix-e-lated.
Three more words from Mr. Deeds: doodle (verb), doodling (noun), and doodler. Mr. Deeds explains that “everybody does something silly when they’re thinking” — playing the tuba, for instance, or filling in the o s on a printed page:
“Other people are doodlers. That’s a name we made up back home for people who make foolish designs on paper when they’re thinking. It’s called doodling. Almost everybody’s a doodler.”
For the verb, the OED has a first citation from a 1937 essay that references Capra’s film. The dictionary has nothing for doodler until 1960 (“Poetry is not the free unfettered self-expression of the doodler”), but there it is, in Mr. Deeds’s mouth, back in 1936.

The word missing from Deeds’s explanation: the noun doodle, which the OED defines as “an aimless scrawl made by a person while his mind is more or less otherwise applied.” As for etymology: “compare Low German dudeltopf, -dop, simpleton, noodle, lit. night-cap.”

And — hokey smokes! — the dictionary’s first citation for the noun doodle is from Russell M. Arundel, Everybody’s Pixillated (1937):
“Doodle” is a scribbling or sketch made while the conscious mind is concerned with matters wholely unrelated to the scribbling.
Arundel’s title makes clear that Mr. Deeds Goes to Town did indeed bring doodle into common use.

But wait — there’s more: from Life, May 24, 1937, a two-page spread of doodles.

[Arundel was quite a character.]